In a room packed with journalists and eager fans watching via online feed, Formula 1 team Vodafone McLaren Mercedes revealed their 2012 car Wednesday morning. Hosted at the McLaren Technology Center in Woking, England, drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, along with team principal Martin Whitmarsh, pulled the cover back over the new MP4-27 and gave the public the first glimpse at the potential title contender for 2012.
McLaren, one of the most successful Formula 1 teams in racing history, fought hard to challenge the Red Bull Racing team this past racing season. McLaren secured six grand prix victories during the 2011 F1 season and were on podium for 11 other victories, so you can bet they will continue to give it all they've got in 2012 for the coveted FIA World Constructors Championships.
With many months of development now complete, the MP4-27 aims to be the car to beat in 2012. A complete redesign provides the car with a competitive edge and increased safety. Upgrades to the car's design include a much tighter rear-waist, providing additional aerodynamic efficiency which translates to increased speed. New safety regulations for 2012 necessitate a lower front nose for all cars, but unlike the rather funny looking 'platypus nose' on the Caterham CT-01, the McLaren nose carries a smooth curve with consistent appearance and emphasis on aero performance.
Other major changes include a redesigned sidepod to address exhaust flow regulations and an updated cooling system. Though each of these changes means tenths of seconds on the track, this could be the competitive advantage McLaren needs to edge out the other teams and take back the championship title.
The 2012 season looks to be a promising one, and with Austin on the calendar in late November, all teams are closely watching our progress. In a Q&A session following the launch, motorsports journalist Dan Knutson asked Jenson about his outlook on Austin and the new USGP; Adam Cooper documented the discussion here at SpeedTV:
“I'm really excited about heading back to the States,” said Button. “I've never been to Austin but I've heard great things about the city itself, and I've heard also great things about the circuit, the layout, and hopefully we can put on a great show when we get there.
“I remember racing in the States before in Indianapolis which was, you know, a good circuit, but I think the steps that Austin have taken to make sure this is a proper, pukka Formula 1 circuit I think we're gonna love it, you know. It's going to be a lot of fun. And hopefully we have the support of the American fans.”
In addition, Martin Whitmarsh, as he's done many, many, many times, echoed the strategic value in the American market, stressing the need for Formula 1 to be here, despite the struggles with solidifying Formula 1 in America in the past:
“I think all the teams believe it's very important and we've got to make a success of it this time. As we all know, our time in America has been spasmodic and unsuccessful. We have to treat it almost as a new market. But actually there's a huge interest in Formula 1 that is untapped in the States. We've got to work harder. What we have to accept is, America doesn't need Formula 1; we need it more than it needs us.
“So I think the onus has got to be on the teams, the promoter, all of us, to work – and the commercial rights holder – to work very hard to make sure that we educate we promote, we develop the interest, we reach out in America.
“So we've got to work harder than, perhaps, a new Grand Prix in Europe or Asia or South America, where, there is a ready interest and a ready uptake. We've got a real challenge. But it's important. It's important to our commercial partners. The States is still a rather big market for really any multinational company. There are only two world sports, soccer and Formula 1, and for us to be a great world sport, we've got to conquer the States.”
With the new MP4-27 in their arsenal, the McLaren team might really be the complete package in Formula One. McLaren is the only team with two FIA World Championship drivers, a seasoned management team, and arguably the most technically advanced facility and research program in Formula 1.
Though much of the Formula 1 field has yet to reveal their off-season homework, 2012 could be the perfect storm for McLaren, putting them in back on the leader board and potentially on the podium in Austin for the USGP. With under two months before the season begins, momentum is building for what looks to be a very exciting season.